Disinvest from Israel

A campaign similar to the one against South Africa’s apartheid regime could help solve oppression in Israel.

Rania Abuisnaineh

Amid the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s  lobbying and President Barack Obama’s unabashed support for Israel, a group of human rights activists joined Minnesota’s Break the Bonds Campaign in suing Minnesota’s State Board of Investments for illegally investing in Israeli bonds.

The bonds work like this: Minnesota’s SBI invests $18.5 million in Israeli bonds. Profits from these bonds sales are deposited into a larger pool of money that is then funneled to the state of Israel. The money ultimately funds Israel’s military projects against occupied Palestinians.

According to reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel’s tactics have become increasingly appalling: expanding “Israeli-only” roads, building and maintaining the 25-feet tall concrete cage (the infamous “separation barrier”) that divides the Palestinian territories from Israel, monitoring the flow of Palestinians via 600 checkpoints erected primarily in Palestinian neighborhoods, developing infrastructure that allows half a million Jewish settlers to confiscate and colonize land from the West Bank and the list continues on and on.

Upon taking many college courses on the conflict and willingly exposing myself to both the Israeli and Palestinian narrative, I would  become a supporter of the Palestinian cause. From my own visits, I have seen the concrete walls erected over Palestinian farmland. The way it snakes through villages and homes reminds many of South African apartheid.

In my experiences studying the conflict in an academic setting, I noticed that the term “apartheid” is hardly ever used in conjunction with Israel’s military occupation. True, there are a few recognizable differences between Israel’s regime and that of apartheid South Africa. Nonetheless, their overarching missions are one and same: to create a dominating power at the expense of the occupied.

Since its inception in 1948, the South African apartheid regime sprung along a black-white racial divide. Israel, on the other hand, systematically segregates two populations on the basis of ethnicity: the Israeli occupier and the Palestinian occupied. The former permanently and institutionally dominates the other through economic and socio-political control.

The Break the Bonds Campaign’s lawsuit is the first of its kind to be filed against Minnesota’s Board of State Investments. Not many have ventured this far into the legal arena to support a humanitarian cause abroad. If more individuals and states engage in divestment from Israeli bonds, their collective efforts can bring change, just as anti-apartheid activists brought change to the 46-year South African apartheid regime.

A South African native and former civil rights activist during the apartheid era, Leon Rodrigues, visited the University of Minnesota last Monday to speak on boycotts and sanctions against apartheid regimes. He reminded students that activism, such as divestments and boycotts, “breaks the back of an apartheid government.”

Rodrigues said that his visit to the West Bank a few years ago evoked memories of his painful past.

“During my trip, I met with Jewish settlers and listened to their perspective of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he told an audience of students. Rodrigues said that when they spoke, the settlers reminded him of the South African dominating class.

The state of Israel continuously pushes its occupation over the Palestinian people. As students with a moral conscience, we should push Minnesota’s SBI to disinvest from Israel’s apartheid regime.


Rania Abuisnaineh welcomes comments at [email protected]